Thursday, November 13, 2014
A philosophical basketball preview
Jim Christian doesn't have a set style. He's not married to any offensive or defensive philosophy that he must stringently implement regardless of his players or opponent. Given his talent this year, that's probably a good thing. If he's smart, he will just give the ball to Olivier Hanlan and get out of the way.
Hanlan is a versatile offensive player with the requisite skills, speed and build to be a great player. He will be the best player on the court in most of BC's games this year. His talent alone should carry the team to 14 wins. But it is not always that simple. Hanlan couldn't carry last year's team to 14 wins. But the reason for my optimism is that I believe Christian is smart enough to put the pieces together and maximize this group of players.
Hanlan as the offense instead of Hanlan within the offense
For all of our frustrations, Steve Donahue ran a consistently efficient offense. The scheme wasn't dependent on any one player and allowed flexibility in tempo that should have enabled BC to compete with anyone. We know it didn't. But not only did the team not win enough, there were many times where it felt like the movement and patience restricted what the players could be. Think of how many first halfs we had where Hanlan was a non-factor. He would start the offense but never see the ball again. He could drive to the basket at will, yet instead we would eat clock looking to move the ball around the perimeter. In this new era I expect Christian to allow the players more freedom. Hanlan can score if it is there. The offense will also start with him driving and creating instead of waiting. The offense won't be as statistically efficient, but the mindset and aggressiveness should help in the win-loss column.
The other guys will get their moments, but it will be as complimentary players off of pick and rolls or kick outs. And as long as they adapt and understand, they should be fine.
Defense, defense and more defense
Christian is also not some defensive whiz, but we cannot get any worse. There was very little effort or emphasis put on defense in the old regime. Now practices are defensively focused. Now guys like Owens and Brown will get minutes based off of their D. And then there is Dennis Clifford. Even if he will never be what he once was, he hasn't shrunk. Adding a legit 7-footer will impact rebounding and other teams' ability to score in the paint. Clifford wouldn't have been enough to save Donahue's job, but he will make Christian's life easier this season.
When I was underwhelmed by the Christian hire, I wrote that he feels like a place holder. He's never been anywhere that long and seems like he has limited upside. My thoughts on him haven't really changed, but I think he is the type of guy who will work in this transition year. He's not looking to build something long-term. He doesn't do long-term (he even transferred during his playing days). He's a pragmatic basketball guy who will put the pieces together and install enough basics that our team will be consistently competitive and never terrible. Is that the type of program that will win championships or inspire fans? Probably not, but he's smart enough to keep getting hired. And if he wants to be marketable after BC, then it will be about letting Hanlan, a few transfers and some flawed big men do what it takes.
On the change in attitude and defense alone, I think BC wins 14 games. If Hanlan really gets going we could be .500. If I am wrong about Christian's upside (and even Clifford's upside) then maybe we become a bubble team. Regardless, I just hope for a fun season.